When you acquire a legacy brand like Round Table pizza, there is often a lot of work to do. Luckily for Global Franchise Group, which acquired the concept at the end of 2017, there was only one big undertaking.
“We did some consumer research upon the acquisition. What we found was this is hands down the best pizza in the category, but we’re celebrating our 60th anniversary and some of our restaurants haven’t been updated in quite some time,” said Jenn Johnston, chief brand officer at Global Franchise Group. “We felt like the brand and the consumer needed a refresh.”
While it’s not a brand for high-end consumers, some spots looked pretty dated. Bright white drop ceilings, 90s-style ceiling fans and the same furniture you might find in a strip-mall Chinese buffet. (Check out the before and after below) Even with great pizza to bring people in, it could clearly use some freshening up not just to compete but also to deliver on the brand promise.
“One thing that was incredibly important was when Bill Larson founded the brand in 1959, was to create a gathering place and share some pizza with someone you love. We wanted to honor that but bring that to a new restaurant and a new deign that fits the same passion that we put into our pizzas,” said Johnston. “You’re called Round Table Pizza, but you don’t have a single round table in your restaurant. As you see, we tried to create that central round table around the beer wall as a gathering place, but also round table in the booths to create more of a gathering type atmosphere and update to what consumers want.”
Another brand point there, the round table evokes the Arthurian connection. Johnston said they wanted to bring that out to the forefront, without being cheesy. That’s a delicate balance between a the old design and the full Medieval Times treatment.
“We wanted to update the shield in a way that was more modern and update the logo. The D and the T form a knight’s helmet. But the R and the T stylized also creates a knights helmet. And inside the store design there are some really nice helmet queues, the light fixtures. Those type of elements help you understand the heritage of the brand and we really dial it up in an interesting and modern way,” said Johnston.
Given the larger format of the space and the trend toward smaller spaces and private moments for Instagram or Snapchat, TikTok—whatever the kids are doing—Johnston said they intentionally carved out places to get away within the restaurant.
Of course, the beer wall was maybe the biggest update. The self serve beer wall is a gathering place but also a bit of a novelty to drive actual in-restaurant traffic with the gathering space nearby as she mentioned.
Currently, the new design is live in two locations, with six to 10 locations projected for 2019 and another 10 next year. A handful of franchise operators are also eager to jump on the refresh. Right now, Johnston is working with the team to find “good, better and best” packages and right size the investment before rolling out to the rest of the system once they have some sales data to help sell the update.
“Nothing tells the story like same-store sales, so we’re looking forward to monitoring that and expect a double digit lift,” said Johnston.
She said she’s really enjoyed working with Sterling Rice Group on the design, saying they helped frame a modern look without forgetting the brand heritage. But bringing the consumer into the process was invaluable.
“You need the consumer every step of the way, a lot of times people will get in a room and start designing restaurants and maybe forget that step. We’ve been very careful from moment one to first determine is there a need? Then, what do you like?” said Johnston. “We’ve brought consumers into the restaurant and did research around the look etc. and as we went through we kept them engaged and now that we’re finished, we’ll still get consumer reactions. I think that’s key to developing a new deign.”